Crosby's teammate, Evgeni Malkin, has at times, also been considered the best player in the world. Malkin has won a Conn Smythe, two scoring championships, Calder Trophy (Rookie of the year), and a league MVP. Malkin is so good that at times, because of being overshadowed by Crosby's presence, almost seems underrated. You will constantly see Penguins' fans debate who's better between Crosby and Malkin. Thus, the nickname of the tandem being "The Two-Headed Monster."
For all of their individual accomplishments, right now the Pens need this duo to truly step up their game if the Pens want to make another deep playoff run this year. Right now, the Pens are tied in their first-round matchup with the Columbus Blue Jackets Monday night. The Pens are clearly the more talented team, but have found themselves yet again getting efforts from key players to be have left a lot to be desired.
This Penguins' roster in particular came into the season with the least amount of depth it has had since the 2006-2007 season. Considering that, the Pens have to rely on their star players to produce in order to win. Crosby has three points in two games, all assists, and all coming on the power-play. Malkin has two points through two games, with one even strength point. So far this series, Chris Kunitz has zero points, so does Kris Letang and James Neal.
Here are some stats that might make you pull your hair out:
- Last nine playoff games both Crosby and Malkin have zero goals combined. That is over 20 periods of hockey if you include overtime.
- Dating back to last postseason: Malkin has just one point in even strength situations, nine playoff games. Eight out those nine games Malkin had zero points during five-on-five situations.
- Crosby only has one point in five-on-five situations in his last nine playoff games. Seven of his last nine playoff games he been held without a point during five-on-five play.
- Crosby has just three points in his last six playoff games, with zero goals, and is a -4.
- Malkin has just two points in his last six playoff games, with zero goals, and is a -6.
This is not all about Malkin and Crosby though, as they have produced a little more than some of the Pens' other key players.
Kris Letang, who has been a mess during the Blue Jackets series, has zero points in his last six playoff games and is a -7 over that stretch. That is simply unacceptable for a former Norris Trophy finalist that is going to make close to $8 million per-year next season. Not only has Letang been invisible offensively, but he has been a wreck defensively, giving very weak efforts on the backend.
Where the Hell is Chris Kunitz? Over the years Chris Kunitz has transformed into an All Star winger, even being named to Team Canada. Over the past two regular seasons, only Alexander Ovechkin has more goals than Kunitz. However after another strong regular season, Kunitz has disappeared in the playoffs, with zero points, one hit in two games, and is a -2. Going back to last year's postseason, Kunitz has just one point in his last seven playoff games, and his a -3 during that span. Not only is Kunitz not producing, but he isn't providing the physical presence that he has in the past, providing just one official hit during the first round so far. Kunitz has developed into a goal scorer that is not scoring goals right now and it is hurting his line-mates and his team.
Following along with the disappearing act of his teammates, we have James Neal. Neal is going on six straight playoff games without a point, dating back to last year's playoffs. Neal is paid to score goals, and when he not is doing that, he is not doing much to help the team. Over the pointless six-game drought, Neal is a whopping -9. Two things I can say for Neal is that he should breakthrough soon, as his line has been doing a good job of possessing the puck, and Neal has 9 shots on goal this series. So hopefully he can breakthrough soon and end this drought. Neal also hasn't been taking any dumb penalties lately, going three straight games without taking a penalty of any kind. Still, the Pens pay him $5 million per-season to score, so that is what he needs to do.
Another good read that I highly recommend is also from the Tribune-Review's Joe Starkey, who wrote about this team's arrogance problem. Starkey is dead-on with this, as this team obviously has the talent to win, but the overall desperation is not there to seal the deal. The team's best players are not playing anywhere near their best hockey, and when that happens it is going to be hard to win. Go see Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and the Chicago Blackhawks for another example. Until they all step up, the Pens are not going very far in the playoffs. Hell, if things continue the way the are, they will be lucky to get past Columbus. At least, Marc-Andre Fleury will be there to take all of the undeserved heat if and when they do get eliminated.